Just over three weeks ago, Australia defeated the United States in a men’s basketball exhibition in Las Vegas. Now, Team USA will try to turn the tables on the Australians when it really counts: in a semifinal matchup at the Tokyo Olympics.
The US fended off a game challenge from Spain in the quarterfinals, beating their biggest international rivals 95-81.
US eliminates Spain in Olympic basketball — again
Spain led the game by as much as 10 points in the second quarter. The Americans then took control of the game with a 22-6 run in the third. Ricky Rubio scored 38 points to keep Spain in the contest, but it wasn’t enough to contend with Kevin Durant, who scored 29 points and dished out four assists in the US victory.
“We are playing for a lot of people back at home and a lot of people around the world who support us,” Durant told NBC. “Guys are laying it out on the line to win this. Guys are going to do whatever we need to win.”
While the United States reigns as the dominant powerhouse in international men’s basketball, it’s the only remaining team with a loss in this tournament. In the semifinals, Team USA will face an Australian team that eased through its group stage games, then blew out Argentina 97-59 in the quarterfinals.
San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills has led Australia throughout the tournament and scored 18 points in the win over Argentina.
Three teams remain undefeated into medal rounds
Australia will come into the semifinal feeling confident. The Australians beat the US 91-83 in that exhibition in July, and feature a roster with enough NBA talent to trouble the Americans. Mills leads an attack that could exploit Team USA’s defensive weaknesses as well.
In any case, Australia says it isn’t the least bit intimidated by the United States in 2021.
“We know a lot about them,” Houston Rockets guard Dante Exum told reporters. “We’ve played them and obviously they’ve got the hype of being Team USA. But we have to just go in and play our game and we know what we have to do. It’s just them versus us. There’s only five on the court at a time and we can play defense and only one of them can have the ball at a time.”
|Olympic Basketball Odds – Men’s Semifinals (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|USA (-12) vs. Australia|
|Slovenia (-2.5) vs. France|
An Australia win wouldn’t stun the world, but Team USA remains a solid favorite heading into the semifinal. FanDuel Sportsbook rates the United States as a 12-point favorite over the Australians.
Matters won’t get any easier for whichever team advances to the gold medal game. In the other semifinal, Slovenia (-2.5) faces France in a battle of undefeated teams. France already has a win over the United States, while Slovenia has never lost an international game with Luca Doncic on the roster.